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COVID-19 and the Prison Overcrowding Crisis

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Prison overcrowding remains a series problem. Even in states that are reducing their prison populations as recognition about the failures of mass incarceration become more mainstream, prison capacity is often falling even more quickly. Combine that with a deadly virus, and…

“Prison is not designed for social distancing,” said Thompson, who is serving a de facto life sentence (his first parole hearing will come in 2087) for aggravated murder and kidnapping. “That’s not the system’s fault. That’s not the prison’s fault. It couldn’t have been designed with the vision of one day having to social distance for 6 feet. … It squeezed as many of us in here as it could.”

Nationwide, Marion ranked as the largest recorded coronavirus outbreak of any U.S. institution in a New York Times analysis. Three other prisons, including another packed one in Scotia Township, Ohio, were in the top five. The fifth is the Smithfield pork processing plant in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

With fears that a second wave of infection will erupt in the fall, some state corrections officials are realizing the coronavirus is a wake-up call, forcing them to confront the problem of prison overcrowding. They’re considering how to achieve social distancing in confined spaces, where inmates are unable to do the only thing that has proven effective in stopping the viral spread.

We really haven’t even begun to grasp the effects that this pandemic, and the horrible mismanagement of it (more on that later today) will have on American society.

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